Both System Of A Down and The Eighties Matchbox B-LineDisaster have divided listeners with their most recent output – bothhave, in fact, faced a bit of slagging off from us at musicOMH. I haveto disagree with my esteemed colleagues here though.
I think The RoyalSociety is one of the defining rock albums of last year (with no smallthanks to the input of the Master of Reality, Chris Goss), but that’snothing compared to the love I’ve got for SOAD’s latesthalf-a-double-album, Mezmerize – already one of the finest rock albums since Faith NoMore‘s Angel Dust, and that’s with the other half (Hypnotize) yetto come. So it will come as no surprise that I entered the MEN arenawith high hopes for both acts – and I left hugely disappointed by one andutterly in love with the other. So who soared and who left us bored?Come now, as if there’s any doubt…
Anyone who’s seen System Of A Down live knows they can dolittle wrong, so let’s make a quick B-Line for the Disaster that precededit. For all their dark club cool and 21st century Birthday Partystyle chic, Brighton lads The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disasterare completely dwarfed by playing in an arena. Vocalist Guy McKnight’sNick Cave drawl was indistinguishable, lost in a fug of pooracoustics.
Only three recognisable tracks from The Royal Society wereheard, with many of the best ones notably absent. You wouldn’t notice,though, due to being distracted from the muddy sludge of noise by some ofthe most misguided stage lighting in history. Spotlights swung aroundthe stage in time to the music pointing at the back, then across to theaudience, as though an extension of a naff disco set from Maplins. Theyshone everywhere except on the band, who may as well not have beenthere, and each song had its own combination of 2 silly colours (white andtangerine for Mister Mental, anyone?). I was gutted. They were crap.
On to System Of A Down however, and the moment DaronMalakian’s shadow was projected onto the stage curtain, the strains of SoldierSide drifting through the arena, it was always going to change for thebetter. Bang! – stage curtain falls, we’re into BYOB, and the crowdgoes instantly electric. Revenga follows. Lead singer Serj Tankian isrunning around the stage, a mischievous imp on heat that between songslooks alarmingly like Ronnie James Dio from a distance, whilst agreat acoustic intro to Cigaro emphasises just how soulful Daron’svoice can be too, even when he is singing about the size of his cock. Thecrowd at the front have to be advised to move back for their own safety- they’re going crazy.
Although they start off as though they’re going straight throughMezmerize, this is actually a night dominated by the older stuff withalmost the entirety of Toxicity getting an airing. During a blistering ChopSuey a lone lighter is held aloft amongst the glowing mobile phonestaking pictures – the message gets across as by Lost in Hollywood we’vegot a proper lighter display going. Bounce has the so-called-seatingareas literally shaking to the pogo, and somewhere through Needles anenthusiastic dancer behind us trips and tumbles forward, screaming ‘Pull thetapeworm out of your ass!’. Excellent.
The lighting isn’t shit like before, in fact it’s dazzlinglyeffective and yes, we could see the band. Prison Song starts with Serj in agiant cone of white light, as though entering a giant cell through asingle skylight before absolutely exploding. There isn’t an encore, whichis odd, but it’s a long set that closes triumphantly with Sugar, aslowed down, vocodered intro giving us all the chance to sing about thosekombucha mushroom people to our hearts content before System Of ADown leave the stage, and leave us breathless. Fantastic.